Food labelling deadline set
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Cape Town - Three government departments have 90 days to develop a plan to deal with issues of food safety and mislabelling after researchers found biltong and droëwors was actually horse and kangaroo meat.
Yesterday the portfolio committees on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as well as Health and Trade and Industry met Stellenbosch and UWC scientists in the National Assembly to discuss steps to ensure products were correctly labelled.
Last month Stellenbosch University scientists released a study which found that some sausages and burger patties contained goat, water buffalo and donkey meat while UWC found some biltong and droëwors was horse and kangaroo meat.
These findings led the National Consumer Commission to start probing the incorrect labelling of meat products.
Andisa Potwana, the director of consumer law and policy in the Department of Trade and Industry, told the committee it needed to give consumers information that would allow people to make the right choices, and that if donkey meat was contained in a product then it should be labelled as such.
Potwana said that following reports of mislabelling the department had asked the consumer commission to investigate. It would impose a fine of R1 million or up to 10 percent of the offending firm’s total annual turnover in the preceding financial year, whichever was greater.
Michael Modisane, the deputy director general in the department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said none of the species in the mislabelling were inedible.
“Maybe donkey is controversial but it can be eaten…the important issue is mislabelling and it should be handled as such.”
With regards to the UWC and Stellenbosch findings, Modisane said: “The department is of the view that, with the exception of few, the species mentioned in the study are species regularly sold and consumed in this country – they are normally slaughtered in registered abattoirs or imported.”
There were abattoirs in South Africa that processed zebra, donkey and mule meat for the export market since these were a delicacy in Europe. There were just three abattoirs registered for the slaughter of horsemeat – one in Gauteng and two in the Free State.
Department of Health deputy director Mandisa Hela told the committee DNA tests to identify trace substances in meat were expensive, costing R1 000 each. The department recently assessed 20 DNA samples which cost R20 000.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries chairman Lulu Johnson gave the departments 90 days to come up with a plan and present a report to the committee in June.